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B&N Week 148: Guest Post on Perseverance

| October 22, 2013

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I’ve got a treat for you this week! There’s a guest speaker! I’m going to let him introduce himself, and do all the rest. Take it away, my friend!

It’s Tuesday and boy is it weird to be typing this column, rather than reading it!

As you might already know, I am not Steven. My name is Jeremy Melloul, and if you haven’t heard of me then you’re probably in the majority (I guess I should do a better job at Increasing My Brand Awareness!).

Steven was gracious enough to let me write a guest article for Bolts & Nuts, which I’ve been reading for the majority of its existence. As a comic book writer who’s just produced his first comic it may not seem like I have much to contribute to the library of advice Steven has built up, but hopefully you’ll find what I have to say useful. So, without further delay, lets talk about…

Perseverance.

Of the many essential characteristics one needs in order to build a career in comics, I’ve found perseverance to be the most taken as a given. Other traits like talent, luck, professionalism, and affability are frequently mentioned. Perseverance, however, is just an assumed trait. I understand why. I know that, as a writer, if you ever find yourself unable to write your way out of a corner, the solution is just to stare at the screen until your forehead bleeds (you heard that before?). That’s perseverance. What’s the alternative? Give up? Let your comic wither away (or get fired, that’s probably more likely assuming it’s a project you were hired to do)? No. You’re going to sit there and persevere until you bleed. If not then, I’m sorry, but you aren’t much of a creator.

It is impossible to sustain a career in comics without being capable of perseverance.

Unfortunately, even though most rising creators do understand the rarity of true “overnight success,” the path one must walk to build a career in comics remains difficult. This is due, in no small part, to the fact that while the concept of perseverance itself is clear enough (never stop, no matter what), actually persevering, is not so simple. It can be quite complex – and difficult – as the challenges vary in form or grow in volume. The amount of obstacles we can find ourselves facing will challenge our resolve and can seem overwhelming.

I understand. Believe me, I do, but a big part of being a successful creator is finding creative solutions to whatever problems you face. No matter the form they take.

My only completed comic to date is a 24-page one-shot called Screws Loose. It was the first comic script I ever wrote, adapted from a short story I had written a year before. I was smart enough to start with a smaller project that I believed wouldn’t be too difficult to see to completion. I put together a Kickstarter for the project and successfully raised the funds I needed to pay the team I was working with and actually produce the comic.

That was two years ago.

The first artist I worked with left the project (on amicable terms for a higher paying job) and I then spent the following months learning how to do contracts and searching through the massive response to a Digital Webbing ad I had posted. Those were the challenges of the project itself. Then there was how life got in the way, lobbing sickness or other obstacles onto my path, and together the two types of challenges created many opportunities were I could’ve, understandably, given up. There were many times I wanted to give up. My resolve wasn’t that strong. I think I was lucky to have felt accountable to the people who had backed my Kickstarter. The way I saw it I could either refund the backers, despite having already spent some of the money to produce the project, or I could finish the project and find a way around each of these issues as they came. I couldn’t refund the backers. If I did then I wouldn’t have a comic to show for all I had gone through already. That was not okay. (Especially as distaste grew for Kickstarter projects that never reached completion. Better late than never, right?)

So I decided to push on. I made the right call. Now I have a produced comic that I’m extremely proud of and was able to take to New York Comic Con. The feeling of being able to attend a show with a comic sporting my name on it, after years of attending shows with nothing to show, can’t be understated. I also can’t say enough about the momentum this first comic has built up for me. I’m now tackling multiple other projects.

At the time, though, it didn’t seem worth it to me to be putting in so much time and effort for a measly one-shot. I was expecting to have the Kickstarter completed in six months. I was not ready for the two years it’s actually taken. Now these two years constitute my first step towards a career in comics, and though it hasn’t quite taught me patience, it has taught me to deal with delays, which is important. I know we all want it badly but, for most of us, it is okay if things move slowly, as long as they do keep moving. Each step provides the foundation for the next step. That’s important to remember.

The difficult moments I’ve faced to this date will undoubtedly be overshadowed by later moments of even greater difficulty. But achieving my goals will overshadow all these. I still feel some frustration that it took me so long to make a comic, but what’s more important is that I’ve made a comic. From now on, every comic I make will be a next comic. If I’ve done it once I can do it again, and do it better and better each time (and if we’re looking for silver linings…the long delay has given me a lot of time to improve as a writer).

The point is, I wouldn’t have gotten here if I hadn’t persevered. Perseverance is the vehicle with which we close the gap between our taste and our talent.  Perseverance means never losing hope, never letting yourself buckle when you feel overwhelmed, and never stopping.

Perseverance, like all vehicles, needs some sort of fuel (or your renewable energy source of choice). For me, my fuel was going to conventions, interacting with other creators (both in person and online), reading good comics, and, the simplest of all, just wanting to make comics. These things motivated me. In order to make it you have to find, or embrace, what motivates you. Put yourself in a position to get motivated. It’s a long journey and you won’t make it all the way on a half-tank of gas. Remember to refuel along the way; it’s not about how fast you go, but how long you go for.

I’m immensely proud of what I’ve achieved, even more so because I’ve overcome the obstacles I faced. Now I’m onto the next thing, and the pride I feel is motivation for me to work harder (and hopefully a little faster) on my next comic.

Obviously I will face more challenges, some new, some the same as before, in my future projects. In their wake, I will need to persevere. Being prepared to persevere is important. Being aware of the importance of being prepared to persevere is important, too. It’s not enough to just be inspired, despite how important that is.

You need to be able to put yourself in a position where you not only actually can persevere, but where you feel that you can persevere. Use the resources at your disposal: conventions (if you can make it), comic book shops, sites with a wealth of resources (like this one), and especially the awesome community of rising creators that exists (on places like Twitter, or the Comics Experience Workshop forums).

The community especially is vital. If we can be candid with each other about our breaks in resolve, then we’d only strengthen our community and help each other along the way. Putting yourself in a position to persevere means reaching out for some encouragement, a funny picture, or a link back to your motivational article of choice (perhaps this one?), when you need it (you know, help others help you and all that jazz).

If you don’t, then you just might buckle when it comes time to face your next obstacle, whether it comes from inside or outside.

That is precisely why I’m going to stop writing this article and go tweet a little now. If you want to find me there, you can do so @JeremyMelloul.

Thanks for reading. See you around.

Thanks, Jeremy!

That’s all for this week. No homework, unless you want to work on your perseverance.

As for Jeremy Melloul, he is a rising comic book writer. When he’s not making comics, he’s usually eating pizza, freelancing, or making YouTube videos. You can find him on Twitter @jeremymelloul.

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Category: Bolts & Nuts, Columns

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

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